Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Lessons Learned from Mad Men

At this point, it's pretty much obligatory that if you have a blog about marketing or advertising, you have to give your perspective on Mad Men.

I'd been holding out as long as I could, waiting until I had something to say that hadn't already been said. But I was drawn out of my cocoon by a post on the Critical Mass blog penned by my friend Scott Shamberg.

Entitled "It's Not a Wheel. It's a Carousel." -- an homage to Don Draper's pitch to Kodak -- Scott's post points to 4 specific attributes of the characters on the show that should be staples of advertising agency types today. In Scott's words:

"1. They constantly speak their minds and share their opinions. There are no yes men at this agency. In one episode, the Creative Director (yes, the Creative Director, not the Account Director) says to a client, “You hired me to do this job and you have ignored me. That is why you are #4 in your category.”
2. They rely on emotion, not just research.
3. They think about more than just advertising, they think about the client’s overall business.
4. They drink and smoke during meetings and often arrange “companionship” for their male clients.
5. They use theatre as a sales tool. Constantly.

Um, okay, maybe #4 is not something we should be doing today. You can get in a lot of trouble for some of that (you can have a lot of fun, too…wait, did I think that or write that?).

The other four points are fundamental to successful client management. We are hired for our opinions, our ability to utilize emotion to drive brand affinity and the way we can understand a client’s overall business. And many of us are very good at all three of those things. However, if not presented in the right way, the ideas suffer."

I couldn't agree more with Mr. Shamberg here. Here's the comment I left on his post:

Amen, Shammy.

The episode that really drove your point #3 home for me was when the Sterling Cooper gang presented a plan to their department store client (you know the one where Draper shtoops the daughter of the store’s owner) and instead of presenting ad creative or media flowcharts, they talk about redesigning the store layout and putting a fancy restaurant on the main floor.

My lessons learned from that show:
1. Good ideas can and should come from anywhere.
2. Don’t limit your thinking to what the brief asks for.
3. Don’t shtoop the client… that never ends well.

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